Sunday, June 18, 2017

Success Using Family Finder Match Alerts

Family Tree DNA Alerts
I manage over ninety family kits, most of whom tested with Family Tree DNA. So I get many scores of these notices every week. Not only each person, but since, for instance,  Dan is a member of all five of my projects, I get all of his notices five times. Others are members of multiple projects and for them too I get multiple notices.

These notices of "Close Matches" means matches that FTDNA considers to be suggested second-third cousins. Readers may recall that several months ago I challenged FTDNA to explain why the more recent kits are getting far and away more close matches than earlier kits from the same families. We are four months and counting and FTDNA has not yet addressed this issue. (Janine, if you are reading this, see my help request 565856  which was opened 17 February.)

I cannot just limit myself to those matches which FTDNA calls "close." I also want the 2-4 cousins and the 3-5 cousins. After all, if one person has is a suggested 2-3 cousin, it is relevant to consider siblings or other close relatives who are 2-4 or 3-5 with that same person.

So between the huge numbers of alerts and the inconsistency in reporting them, I have yet to find a way to make use of them properly. After all, if I get a close match with Joe Schmoe, I cannot look at his matches with my other kits. It all becomes unwieldy and my worry that I will miss important matches competes for my time with more immediate demands.

An Attempt to Manage the Alerts
A few weeks ago, I decided to try something new. I decided to download in an Excel file all the matches during the month of May for each of my project members. then I arrange them in separate Excel files by group: my mother's side, my grandmother's side, the Rozdol-Pikholz side, etc. That's a lot of work by itself but after that I have to sort by the names of the new matches to see who may have interesting matches with several people within each of my groups. There is no macro that will do that for me.

I then sent out over two hundred emails like this.

Some replied, most did not. Some gave me their GEDmatch numbers, others did not care to share this secret information with me. Others needed help even creating GEDmatch numbers. Oh, and a few would send me a list of all the GEDmatch kits in their families.

I looked at each one against all my kits - after sorting on the "Name" column of their match lists so all mine would come up together near the top  - and created 2-D Chromosome Browsers. For most I would do two or three Chromosome Browsers for different parts of my families.

In one case after another - particularly within the Skalat Pikholz families - I would get results that I couldn't do anything with. The only segments over 10 cM were individuals, not groups. And when they were groups, they were vague and appeared weak and distant. I mean, if I have a segment shared only by a third cousin here and a fourth cousin there and a double fourth cousin another way, how serious can this be. It almost has to be long ago and in most of my directions I have only two or three ancestral surnames to work with, even when I can go back two hundred years or more.

I was also hampered by the total inadequacy of the Tag Groups that GEDmatch inaugurated a few months ago. I have been meaning to write about that and will try to do so soon.

I really began wondering what was the point of all this work. After all, if I were serious, I'd have to do this every month! I would send the results to the matches and began concluding with "Thank you for humoring me."

First Partial Success
Last week I saw some progress. Kind of.

I heard from Ellen, the wife of one of my new matches of interest, a man named Robert. She gave me his GEDmatch number and I went to work. My Chromosome Browser gave me this:

Identical segments with two of my sisters and my brother, a similar segment with my half-second cousin Fred, and a smaller segment in the same place with my second cousin Susan. This is not large but it is unambiguous. My father's mother had a half sister (same father, different mothers) named Ella. Aunt Ella's husband was not Jewish, nor was the wife of their son. So my half second cousin Fred has all his Jewish DNA from one grandparent, Aunt Ella. Susan is a full second cousin on that side. There is no way that our common ancestor with Robert is not an ancestor of my great-grandfather - either a Rosenzweig or a Zelinka. Both families lived in the area of Trencin County Slovakia back into the 1700s.

It reminded me of the match with Cousin Debbie last year, on a segment that looked like this:

True, Debbie's segment with us is larger than Robert's and she has more matches, but nonetheless this is the same logic and I can accept Robert as a family member with the same authority.

And Robert has another match, this one with Fred and my double second cousin Lee. It is possible, though unlikely, that this comes from  different common ancestor that the match on chromosome 7, but even if so, it does not challenge the conclusion.

However, whereas Debbie is definitely Zelinka, not Rosenzweig and she knows of Trencin County ancestors, Robert's position is less well-defined. He could be either Rosenzweig or Zelinka and in any case, he knows his family to be from Horodenka in southeastern Galicia. So we have work to do here, but we know there is at least a small pot of gold to be claimed.

The Duncans
When it rains, sometimes it pours. Or at least rains a little more. The next GEDmatch I looked at after Robert was a brother and sister pair, Evelyn and Adam. Their father is Scottish, a Duncan, so my families' matches with them are on their mother's side.

I started off with this excellent set of matches for Evelyn on Chromosome 12. Regular readers will recognize them easily enough.
Evelyn's matches with my mother's mother's Rosenblooms, from Borisov in Belarus.

  • The first two, Inna and Lydia are granddaughters of my grandmother's sister Alta. They are first cousins.
  • The next two, Beverly and Sam are grandchildren of my grandmother's brother Hymen. They are siblings.
  • My sisters Amy and Sarajoy and I are on lines 5, 6 and 9.
  • My first cousins Kay and Leonard round out the group.
Evelyn has another match with Inna and Lydia on Chromosome 20, of about 11 cM.

Evelyn's brother Adam has much the same segment on Chromosome 12.

It's a bit different from Evelyn's matches, but with the same clear message. We share a common ancestor upstream of one of our great-grandparents Israel David Rosenbloom or his wife Etta Bryna. And speaking of Etta Bryna, my maternal haplogroup, as seen in my MtDNA test is U1b1. Evelyn's is U1b. These are very close and may refer to the same common ancestor as these matching segments, though the matching segments appear more recent.

Adam has another segment that Evelyn does not.

This points in a slightly different direction. It does not have the Rosenbloom cousins, but it has five of my mother's children plus our first cousin Kay - and our second cousin on our mother's father's side, the Gordons. I am not quite sure what to make of this because Judy's Jaffe grandfather also came from Borisov. What is certain is that Evelyn and Adam are our cousins - probably fourth, maybe fifth or even third. Galit has added them to our Rosenbloom Borisov project.

The problem is, we do not know how to go from there. We do not have additional known ancestral surnames from our side and though they have a few, we cannot put it together. And their geography is Pinsk rather than Borisov - that's a distance of nearly 400 km.

I also had a look at the matches on Chromosome 12 on the GEDmatch Matching Segment tool to see if there is anyone else who matches both the Duncans and the Rosenblooms on that segment. I see none.

Now I have to decide if I want to do this again for the June matches.

Housekeeping Notes
I'll be speaking on the Hebrew version of
Lessons in Jewish DNA – One Man’s Successes and What He Learned On the Journey
this week, 19 June at 6:30, for IGS Rishon Lezion, Museum of Rishon Lezion, Ahad Ha’am 2.

Also, my son in Chicago is making his next bar mitzvah the first Sunday in May. If any program directors are looking for something around then, please drop me a note.

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